Summer is firing up the Links

During late May and early June, we’ve had seen some perfect conditions to help present the courses in true links style. From 15th May through to 10th June, we only saw 0.5mm of rainfall which has meant the courses have burnt off producing firm and fast surfaces. This has been welcomed by not only the courses but our staff whom have been basking in the early summer sunshine!

Old Course: View of approach shot to 15th green 

As a greenkeeper working at the Home of Golf, we crave to get the right conditions to showcase our courses in true links fashion. This allows golfers to test themselves by using their imagination in executing different shots along the ground. After all, links golf is all about the running game!

Managing moisture

Although burnt, brown and dry conditions may look great, we need to maintain moisture at an optimum level so we don’t dry the surfaces out too much. Especially on higher spots where grass loss can occur if moisture levels are not monitored.

Strathtyrum Course: Semi rough, left side of the 1st hole 

We achieve this by using a moisture meter to take readings on a regular basis which helps us make decisions on exactly how much irrigation we apply back on to the surfaces.

Measuring moisture levels in green surfaces

The process of taking moisture readings involves probing the surface in several positions on a green. The information is then recorded through an app which is then downloaded to a website. When taking samples from a green, we will map it out in a grid of at least nine locations and return to the same locations on each occasion we sample moisture levels. This ensures consistency of readings over a period of time.

Readings showing levels of moisture

The optimum levels of moisture we tend to look for are between 10-20%, so when we fall below 10% as shown in the above picture we address this by topping up water levels by either automatic irrigation at night or hand watering areas that require the water through the course of a day.

Data taken in 2018 showing moisture trends

Readings will obviously vary depending on the weather conditions but from around 14th May – 15th June, the levels of moisture dropped below 10%  when we had our dry period allowing the courses to play hard and fast.

Eden Course: 1st hole

On the last set of readings taken on 21st June, they have jumped to over 20% on the back of 25mm worth of rain recently.

Green firmness

Another task we undertake which has a direct relationship with moisture levels is how firm or hard the greens are. This is measured by another device known as a Clegg Hammer. This basically measures the bounce of a golf ball as it interacts with the surface of a green on impact. Our target levels are generally set at between 120-140 gravities.

Clegg Hammer showing impact readings… time for some irrigation to bring readings down to the optimum level

As we can see from the picture, a reading of 153 gravities has been recorded which indicates the green is very firm and bouncy. Ideal links golf conditions but this generally indicates the moisture level is probably quite low therefore requiring irrigation to reduce the firmness and bring it back to an optimum level.

Old Course: 15th green

Whilst we enjoy the run of warm, sunny days the greenstaff are working hard to consistently produce high quality links playing conditions for golfers to experience. As is normally the case though, we are at the weather’s mercy to assist with this process.

As I look at the forecast for the next couple of weeks, it looks like we are heading back into a dry spell so hopefully the true, firm and fast links conditions we have enjoyed so far this year will continue for a while longer!

Words by Gordon McKie, Course Manager ‑ Old Course

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